Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Review : Ramayana - The Game Of Life - Stolen Hope (book 3) ( Shubha Vilas )

This post was originally posted in my other blog Oriyarasoi. Click here to visit.

Have you grown up reading Amar Chitra Katha, the beautifully illustrated series that depicts the tales of various Hindu God, demigods, sages (rishis) and demons (rakshas ) ? Well, I have been lucky enough to have access to the series during my childhood days and the first half of this book felt like I was revisiting those memories. The glorious tales of the numerous combats between good (Gods/sages) and evil (rakshas) are described in such vivid manner that I did not even miss the wonderful illustrations that made Amar Chitra Katha so unforgettable. As with his earlier books, the author has put up very useful footnotes on each page which helps the reader to understand the finer nuances of the story.

The story of King Nahusha is one such story that I read a long time back. The pious human king got a chance to ascend the throne in Heaven when Indra lost out due to a sin committed by him. But the corrupting thing that power is, it gets the better out of everyone except for the best. Getting drunk on power, Nahusha soon starts coveting Indra's wife who reaches out to Brihaspati, the Guru of the Demigods. The Guru devises a scheme which entails that Nahusha would have to reach the queen's Palace by riding on a palanquin carried by most exalted sages. The Guru cleverly ropes in sage Agastya who is famous for his legendary temper. Goaded by the lust filled Nahusha for moving faster, the fearsome sage lost his temper and threw back the words that the king had uttered in haste. While 'Sarpa' is usually taken to mean snake, it also means 'faster' in Sanskrit. An engrossing tale indeed ! And this book is just replete with such examples.

This book describes the journey of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana though the Dandakaranya forests where they meet many of the sages who pour out their sufferings to them. They move from one ashram to another, gathering the blessings of many and at times releasing others from a spell or curse. Settling in picturesque and apparently peaceful Panchavati, they come across the demoness Supanakha ( the one with broad long nails ) who fancies Lord Rama. Given his cool demeanor, the Lord initially indulges her but when her obsession takes a violent turn, he asks Lakshmana to stall her advances. This triggers a major war with a huge army of the demons descending on the trio.  A bloody war is fought and Lord Rama emerges victorious.

This sets off a chain of events which lead to the kidnapping of Sita. The manipulative Supanakha seduces Ravana's line of rational thinking by waxing eloquent about Sita's unmatched beauty. The demon king beseeches his uncle Maricha to help create a web of deceit to kidnap the hapless Sita, more to satiate his lust rather than to avenge his sister's insult. The elderly demon tries his best to dissuade Ravan from advancing towards his impending doom but fails to do so.

Most of us would be very well acquainted with the next episode that follows. 'Sitaharan' or the kidnapping of Sita is one of the most well known parts of the epic and one has much to learn from it. Succumbing to material desires and doubting a genuine well-wisher are some of those. The kidnapping is followed by the fight with the valiant Jatayu who loses his life while trying to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana. One is also introduced to the Vanaras for the first time at this stage. Shubha Vilas has done a fabulous job in detailing even the minutest of events that occur during Ravana's flight to Lanka and I learnt quite a few details that I was not aware of.

Lord Rama is distraught once he discovers that Sita is gone. Searching for her, he meets the old and frail Shabari who leads him to Sugriva.

[ To be continued in the next book .... ]

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